How to respond to identity theft

There is a lot of anxiety about learning that you have been the victim of fraud or identity theft. With good reason: implementing solutions to re-establish the truth can rot everyday life for a long time.

Talk to Tommy Dolbec, who will surely always remember his last vacation, but not for good reasons. In mid-July 2019, the resident of Dudswell, in the Eastern Townships, received a call from a company specializing in debt collection. At the end of the phone, an agent informs him that he has unpaid amounts of just over $ 600 at Scotiabank. Only problem: Tommy Dolbec, a client at Desjardins, has never done business with this banking institution.

“I then learned that the branch of the bank where I supposedly opened this chequing account seven months earlier was located in Ontario, in a city I had never visited,” said the 29-year-old. Soon after, his worst fears were confirmed: Scotiabank was just the tip of the iceberg. “I had other overdue chequing accounts open elsewhere. However, I thought I was not part of any known data breach, “said the man whose credit rating is still tainted.

In 2018, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center listed 9,769 cases of the acquisition of personal information for criminal purposes, although these statistics represent less than 5% of the total number of victims.

“Fraudsters now have a phenomenal amount of tools to collect personal data compared to 15 years ago. For them, it pays off and is low risk, as it is very difficult to identify the perpetrators of these complex crimes, “said Claude Sarrazin, president and founder of Sirco, an independent investigative company.

The consequences of identity theft can be dramatic, especially if it goes under the radar for months or even years. “When fraud is quickly detected, financial institutions don’t ask too many questions and get the facts right. It is when the situation degenerates and the amounts swell that they become less comprehensive, “explains Sylvain Paquette, president and founder of the Canadian Credit Bureau, who specializes in identity restoration.

Here is the procedure to follow to establish the truth for three types of fraud.

Simple fraud: suspicious purchase on a credit card

When traveling to a metropolis on the east coast of the United States, you can no longer find your credit card. The last time you used it was two days ago, in a busy downtown market. A glance at your online account transactions confirms your suspicion that someone has probably stolen it from you and has been threading fraudulent purchases thanks to it.

Here, speed of action is the sinews of war. As soon as it becomes aware of such a situation, your financial institution freezes the fraudulent account and refunds the stolen amounts. You have 30 days from the date of the suspicious transaction that appears on your statement to report it, otherwise you may have to assume this unauthorized expense.

“Your credit report will not be tainted and the outcome will be quick, that is to say on the order of a few days,” said Claude Sarrazin. Even better: it may be your institution that puts you in the mood, thanks to algorithms capable of detecting fraudulent-looking credit card transactions.

Medium fraud: compromised identity

The illicit use of personal information is more serious. This is what Tommy Dolbec experienced, who believes that the fraud of which he was the victim is linked to the leak of data from Desjardins since his institution is one of the only ones to hold so much confidential information about him. Like all individual members of the movement, his name, date of birth, social insurance number (SIN), address, telephone number, email, transactional habits and financial product profile were probably transmitted. illegally to third parties.

If you are paying the price for such fraud, your first instinct should be to file a complaint with the police, who will investigate. This will provide you with an event number which you will note in a logbook in which you will record all your future steps. Of these, you should contact the two Canadian credit reporting agencies, Equifax and TransUnion, without delay, to have a fraud report placed on your credit report. Although optional, reporting the event to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center is a good idea; they will provide you with valuable advice, such as advising your service providers (telephony, SAAQ, Revenu Québec, etc.).

Thereafter, you must report the identity theft to the relevant banking institutions. This is usually done with a manager of the branch closest to you, who is the best person to fill out such a form and with whom you must make an appointment. Once the declaration is completed, ensure regular monitoring.

“From experience, such records tend to get lost in the system. The fraud label is not particularly helpful; we look at you with suspicion, as if you were someone who did not want to pay his accounts … “, says Tommy Dolbec, whose procedures to restore his identity took much more than the three weeks of vacation to which this man is entitled employee of the CIUSSS de l’Estrie-CHUS.

Several institutions are committed to supporting their customers whose identity has been impersonated for as long as necessary. Desjardins, for example, offers in particular a guarantee of up to $ 50,000 for all costs incurred to rehabilitate identity – administrative costs, lawyers’ costs, costs related to various procedures … Find out about the services of identity theft protection offered by your banking institution. And make sure you obtain its explicit agreement before proceeding to certain disbursements, such as the hiring of a firm expert in restoration of identities; a bank may decide not to reimburse certain expenses for which it has not given its approval.

Our experts also recommend using a password manager and closely monitoring your communications and accounts to detect any suspicious transactions. They also recommend, if possible, locking your mailbox and holding your mail, especially during tax time, and finally never connecting to public or unknown Wi-Fi networks.

“We want to minimize intrusions as much as possible. Anyone who believes they have been the victim of any data breach should minimally apply these measures now and continuously, “think fraudulent analyst Sylvain Paquette.

Extreme fraud: theft of your identity

Marie-Ève ​​Aubry is still suffering the consequences of complex fraud. “Any identity theft is catastrophic, you never know how long it will take to fix the mess,” she said. In my case, it could take a lifetime. “

The 42-year-old Montrealer will always remember that day in 2006, when her life changed. “The Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec advises me that an individual is out in the wild with a driver’s license in my name,” she says. Little by little, I learn that I have several unpaid tickets in my name. It was many years after the special educator misplaced her wallet, which contained her SIN.

In the following years, Ms. Aubry tried by all means to regularize her situation. She canceled hundreds of dollars in tickets and fought with Revenu Québec and the Canada Revenue Agency, which had stopped paying her family allowances. The culmination of her misadventure was reached in 2012 when she learned that a warrant of imprisonment had been launched against her! Tired of war, she finally called in 2014 the services of an expert firm in identity restoration, whose army of experts and lawyers solved most of its problems.

This type of private company takes care of all the procedures. Some even go as far as proposing the correction of all the errors contained in your credit file. This is particularly the case with the Canadian Credit Bureau, whose president and founder Sylvain Paquette claims “that at least 80% of credit files contain errors that can lead to automatic refusals of financing”. And don’t rely on credit reporting agencies to correct these inaccuracies. “Equifax and TransUnion will never recognize that their files contain errors: it’s their bread and butter!” Admitting it would break the bond of trust with their customers, “says the author of the book. The hidden side of credit bureaus published in 2011.

However, these services are not provided: allow a fee of a few hundred dollars for the simple opening of a file with such specialists. Fortunately, home insurance policies include identity theft coverage, sometimes in the form of a rider – free or not -, other times out of their package. Please note: losses linked to fraudulent transactions are the subject of separate procedures with your banking institution.

In a case like Marie-Ève’s, therefore, expect to invest a lot of time, energy and possibly money to restore your identity. It may even be that the situation will never get completely right. “I have seen victims wading in there for years while others normalize their situation in just a few months. There is no rule: it varies greatly depending on the case and the seriousness of the invasion of privacy, “concludes Claude Sarrazin of Sirco.


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